Germany’s junior hopefuls have been in Azerbaijan for the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup for a number of weeks, and are set to do battle for a place in the semi-finals this Friday. However, the players are not skipping school just because they have sporting commitments, as the German FA (DFB) awards the highest priority to educating its young players.
Two teachers, Stephan Berroth and Manuela Hotz, are attached to the squad for the duration of their stay in Azerbaijan, and are making sure none of the players miss vital items on the curriculum. Berroth is responsible for maths-based subjects, and Hotz for languages.
“The students go to their individual subject teachers in their home schools and ask what's coming up next in lessons," Hotz explained to FIFA.com. “The completed notices of absence are then forwarded to us, so we know in advance which subjects are due to be taught and we can prepare ourselves accordingly.
"On schooldays, the students bring their school things to our classes and work on their subjects on their own. Naturally, if problems crop up we're there to answer their questions. At the end of class, we check their work, and make sure they've done everything properly." Classes are in fact held on a near-daily basis.
No lessons on matchdays
“We try and organise lessons in two groups," added Berroth. “We split the squad into one group of ten and one of 11, which allows us to give more individual attention to the players. The fewer students you have in the room, the better we can help. Its around one and a half hours per group, per day. Normally, there's no class on matchdays, as the focus is on the game."
Organising classes to fit in with the players’ daily schedule was not easy for the teachers to begin with, as the squad were training twice a day. By now, the training frequency is down to one session per day, leaving Berroth and Hotz more time with the players.
“It's very important we have two teachers with us because we're missing a lot of school. They really do help us a lot, and if you’re inclined to get it done, you can," Germany captain Sara Dabritz told FIFA.com.
Classes a welcome change
The players are drawn from two different school years, German classes 10 and 11, but the teachers have no problem with that. “We do our teaching on an individual basis and we're not teaching from the front of the class, so it basically doesn't matter which year a player’s in," explained Berroth.
"It's a little more demanding for us because we're switching between school years all the time. But what you really notice is the differences between students from the various German states. Basically, they're all working on different problems."
Every member of the squad has some involvement with football on a daily basis, either on the training pitch or in terms of analysis of upcoming opponents. Both in the build-up and at the tournament itself, football takes up a lot of the youngsters’ time, so the improvised classes in fact serve as a useful source of variety.
“They've been taken away from their everyday lives," Berroth pointed out. “And we teachers have a very different role to the rest of the sporting staff, because we have nothing to do with football. So at the very least we represent a different world for the players."